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That extra mile...

"If I were rain, I would hail on policemen and hurt them badly, because they beat children." - Raju, 12 years.



A painting by 12-year-old Raju that appears in the Youthreach publication.

`I'VE NEVER been quite comfortable with that familiar saying of how we must invest in our children because they are our future. I think, on the contrary, that we must invest in them because they are our Now. It is through their `childness' that we are brought the gifts of wonder and magic, of play and creativity, of nurturing and fearlessness. Of intuitive justice and purity. Of intelligence and courage. Of love.' So writes Nanni Singh in her forward to "If I Were Rain" - a publication "celebrating the spirit of India's disadvantaged urban child".

Many would agree with Nanni Singh, Executive Director, Youthreach, which has brought out the book. The only difference perhaps, is that when `people like us' think of the wonders of childhood, we think of `our' children, those who go to school with hair neatly combed and stomachs full of breakfast, who come home to play, tuition and hobby classes. For Nanni Singh and her Youthreach team, however, the term `our children' encompasses all the thousands of homeless or disadvantaged children in India, and their work includes raising awareness and sensitivity about their needs. The endeavour is to propagate a response that precludes a sense of pity and instead rejoices in their many gifts, while recognising their right to participate in all aspects of life.

While "If I Were Rain" evolved out of workshops with disadvantaged children conducted mostly by Youthreach volunteers, the organisation also works to "build bridges between the private sector and the development sector," explains Balinder Singh, Senior Manager, Youthreach. With its office in the PVR Anupam complex in South Delhi, the NGO works as a facilitator for various other NGOs working with children.

Poignant reality

The hardcover book, with eloquent photographs taken by photographers across the country and artwork, including drawings, poems and testimonials by the children who participated in the workshops, is priced at Rs.750 - a relatively affordable amount considering the print quality and number of pictures. If the book celebrates the spirit of these children, it also poignantly brings home the reality of their daily existence - an existence we find it easy to ignore in the hurly burly of urban life.

Sales proceeds are intended for children's projects in Delhi and Mumbai, informs Balinder. With an initial print run of over 3000, Youthreach is now considering a second edition.

Youthreach welcomes volunteers who can give of their time and skills, and believes in two "fundamental truths," says Balinder. One is that most people want to contribute their mite to the development and other socially productive activities. The other is that "in giving, you also receive." he says. Are you ready to receive?

ANJANA RAJAN

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